School aims for strong bodies, minds

Updated: 2012-07-15 07:48

By Yu Yilei (China Daily)

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The venue that once hosted the tennis competition of the 2008 Olympic Games has been turned into a tennis-focused private school, founded by two retired champion athletes in China.

The New Champion Academy is located inside the Olympic Green Tennis Center, adjacent to the National Tennis Center that hosts the annual China Open tournament. It is a product of Yang Xi, a former volleyball player who helped China to win five consecutive world titles in the 1980s. Yang is aided by China's tennis chief Sun Jinfang, her former teammate and close friend, who serves as the consultant of the school.

Yang also invited American Sabina Brady, founder of the Western Academy of Beijing, one of the city's premier international schools, to become the head teacher.

School aims for strong bodies, minds

Li Na cheerfully obliges when a pregnant fan at the new school on Saturday asks the tennis star to sign her T-shirt right out front. Yu Yilei / China Daily

Brady proudly branded the establishment of the school as the model for after-games usage of an Olympic venue.

"I have the feeling that some of the sports facilities in China were a bit wasted. Should we think of solutions?

"If we can turn the appropriate Olympic venues into schools or other facilities that can pay back society, there will be a very healthy change," Brady, who works as a consultant for a nonprofit organization in China, said in fluent Chinese.

The school's chief aim: Bring a groundbreaking educational concept into China's current system by highlighting the significance of physical education, according to Yang. There are two-hour physical education courses every day, says American George Huey, a member of school's curriculum development team. It is a huge increase compared with other primary or high schools in Beijing, which can barely ensure one hour of PE per day. The school also hired six professional tennis coaches - three from Croatia and three from the UK.

"We hope to produce world champions with good academic performances," said Yang. "We also produce good achievers in academic fields boosting a strong body and mind."

Yang and her colleagues insisted that the school is not a purely sports academy.

"There has been a lot of talk about Chinese athletes lacking education because they started out fully engaged in training since a very early age. We don't want it happen to the next generation. We want to strike a balance here," Sun said.

Sun brought Li Na, China's first Grand Slam winner, to the school on Saturday to reinforce her point.

Li observed that in families in today's China, there are six seniors - two parents and four grandparents - who are taking care of one child, due to the family-planning policy.

"I think this school will be quite functional at teaching children to be more independent through physical education," Li said.

The school started to recruit students on Saturday. It will formally open on Sept 1.